Except SBI and IOB, banking operations in about 75,000 branches across the country is affected due to the nationwide strike called by trade unions
The nationwide strike in the banking and insurance sector on Wednesday has begun on a very encouraging note signifying total success, a top leader of the All India Bank Employees' Association (AIEBA) said.
"The strike has started on an encouraging note across the country as per initial information we got. Employees of Reserve Bank of India (RBI), nationalised banks, old private sector banks, cooperative banks, regional rural banks are participating in the strike," AIEBA general secretary CH Venkatachalam told IANS.
According to him, the strike is a success in major cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata.
Across the country around 500,000 bankers - workers and officers - would be participating in the strike. Around 75,000 branches will not work. The strike was called in support of the 12-point charter of demands of the 10 Central Trade Unions. The unions in the banking and insurance sectors are participating in the strike in support of the 12-point charter, as well as, pressing the issues in their sectors.
Complaining of increasing attacks on the rights and privileges of workers and concessions being extended to the employers, Venkatachalam said there are open attempts to amend labour laws in favour of the employers and to the detriment of the workers. The neo-liberal economic policies are only aggravating the problems of the workers and common masses.
Venkatachalam said in the banking sector, there are continuous attempts to push through the reforms agenda aimed at privatisation of banks, consolidation and merger of banks and others.
"More and more private capital and foreign direct investments are being encouraged. Private sector companies are being given licences to begin banking business," he said.
According to him, Regional Rural Banks are sought to be privatised and a bill has been passed in parliament despite protests from employee unions. The real problem of increasing bad loans is not being effectively handled by the Government but on the other hand, crore of rupees are being written off from profits of banks, Venkatachalam said.
"Deliberate and wilful default of bank loans should be termed as criminal offence and money recovered but no action is being taken on them," he added.
"As on 31 March 2015, there are 7,035 cases of wilful defaulters involving bad loans of Rs58,792 crore.
"The bad loans in the Banks as on 31 March 2015, has risen to Rs2,97,000 crore in addition to another Rs4,03,004 crore of bad loans of 530 corporate companies shown as rescheduled and restructured loans under CDR (corporate debt restructuring) scheme," Venkatachalam said.
According to him bad loans struck up in top 30 borrowal accounts of public sector banks as on 31 March 2015, is Rs1,21,162 crore.
Unions in State Bank of India (SBI) and Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) are not participating in the strike.
"Perhaps, it shows their imperial attitude," a union official told IANS preferring anonymity and punning on SBI's earlier name Imperial Bank.
"All the major recognised unions representing Class III and IV employees in Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) and four government owned non-life insurers are participating in the strike," J.Gurumurthy, vice president, All India Insurance Employees Association (AIIEA) told IANS.
Specific to Maharashtra and Mumbai, which is the capital of Maharashtra, it is estimated that a staggering 300 million workers have joined the strike. It is a day's token strike protesting what they alleged was the government's 'anti-employees' policies here on Wednesday, a top organiser of the strike said.
The strike which started at daybreak mostly hit the finance and business sectors on which the entire commercial capital of the country is dependent on, as large sections government, ports, college professors, state transport and other sectors enthusiastically joined in.
"The strike in the banking and financial services sector is near-total. State transport buses are virtually off roads, as also work at the Mumbai Port Trust. Maharashtra's 1.50 million government employees are also joining in. Some private sector companies and offices affiliated to major unions are also close," said All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) Vice-President V. Utagi.
However, public buses and suburban local trains were not hit but their unions are lending moral support to the striking umbrella unions. A section of cabs and autorickshaws also joined the strike, which Utagi described as "a major success".
He said that is the first ever all India major action by farmers and employees since the NDA-II headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office. Later in the day, thousands of employees, their unions and representatives shall hold a mega rally in south Mumbai to highlight the success of Wednesday's agitation. The strike has been peaceful with no reports of any untoward incidents from anywhere in Mumbai or Maharashtra.